Batten down the hatches

December 01, 2017

When you’re going through hell — keep going. Unless it’s a flooded road.

Anyone with any sense would seal the windows and stay indoors today.

When big weather looms on the horizon it looks deliciously exciting until you have to step out in it.

Apparently, we’re heading into ‘‘uncharted territory’’ this weekend with broken rainfall records bringing expected flooding and ‘‘risk to life and property’’.

Sounds awful and wonderful at the same time.

I can’t help it — I just love a lot of weather.

If I wasn’t tied to my desk putting out your newspaper every day I would be out there with a Humvee packed with radar-tracking satellite dishes chasing storms.

Honestly — I would.

But somebody has to keep baristas employed and stay indoors to tell others what’s happening.

It wasn’t always like this.

I started this career of being a teller of tales by jumping aboard a motorcycle to ferry photographer’s film around London.

It was my job to follow cameramen and women around and to be in the right place to receive a roll of film when the shutter went down on the important, the dull, the ugly and occasionally the beautiful passing parade.

Inevitably, this involved a lot of weather.

However, before I hit the big time of working in the street of shame, I began as a freelance despatch rider carting anything that would fit on my motorcycle.

This too involved large amounts of weather — without the prestige of being a card-carrying member of the press, which opened doors, but not too many umbrellas.

One of my first jobs was to deliver a carton of German engineering leaflets to a translator in the suburbs, which meant travelling over the Hammersmith Flyover with a cardboard box strapped to the seat of my motorcycle.

Of course, I hit a wall of rain and wind at the top of the flyover and the box fell off to be run over by a truck coming the other way.

The box exploded in a storm of wet paper covered in German compound words, which fluttered down over the roofs of terraced houses and gardens in west London.

There were too many to pick up, so I left them to be discovered by residents who were undoubtedly terrified the Blitz was starting again.

I weathered the storm of my bosses back at the office of Technical Translations Ltd and rode onward and upward into the dazzling white heat of Fleet Street.

Unfortunately, riding a motorcycle for a living meant having to negotiate large amounts of northern winter weather.

In the mornings I would have to scrape a layer ice off the seat as thick as cake and then pour hot water into the ignition lock to get going.

I learned not to ride up a sloped street covered in ice because when the rear tyre refused to grip there was nowhere to go except backwards.

I preserved my dignity and my leather jacket by climbing off the 225kg machine and letting it slide to the bottom of the hill while I walked alongside like a failed circus master and his unruly elephant.

Today’s weather will bring pounding rain and wind — my advice is stay indoors, get out the memories and enjoy a coffee.

I’ll keep on slugging away at the typewriter to bring you more news from nowhere.

As somebody important once said ‘‘When you’re going through hell — keep going’’.

John Lewis is The News’ chief of staff.

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